Portland, ME – It must be something in the water at the Cumberland County Civic Center, but the Portland Pirates remained undefeated on home ice with a 6-3 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday night.
It was also a night to remember for Tyler Ennis, who scored four points, including his first professional hat trick. Ennis had been held off the scoresheet for the first four games of the season, and he was relieved just score his first goal of the season.“It was really frustrating that I couldn’t get anything going the first couple of weeks,” said Ennis. I wasn’t having fun and getting really stressed out.”
“I had a good talk with (Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen) after a practice and he told me to just do what I do, have fun and play my game. I tried that today and it worked out.”
Ennis scored his first goal of the night just 3:56 into the first period, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Nathan Gerbe, caught Hartford’s defense napping, breaking into the zone on a partial breakaway, Ennis, trailing the play connected on Gerbe’s cross-ice feed, snapping a quick shot over the glove of Hartford’s goalie Chad Johnson.
Early into the second period, the Pirates made it 2-0 when Gerbe scored his third goal of season only 10 seconds into the start of the period finishing off a two-on-one pass from Ennis.
“We’re trying to create some chemistry in practice all week,” said Gerbe. “We’ve played with each other before and he’s a very good player.” For myself, it’s about playing at a high pace, moving the puck and creating some chemistry.”
“Tonight, we did.”
With Paul Crowder and P.A. Parenteau in the penalty box, the Pirates had a five-on-three man advantage for nearly 1:30 in the second period. Gerbe rang a shot of the crossbar, as Jeff Cowan crashed the net, tapping the shot by Johnson for a 3-0 Pirates’ lead.
“We’ve struggled on (special team) and we’ve worked a lot of that in practice,” said Cowan. “We’re trying to get good puck movement out there on the power play and get the puck to the net and create things. “
With 6:12 remaining the second period, Tyler Ennis scored his second of the night, with a wrist shot past Johnson for the Pirates second power play goal of the game.
Hartford snapped Jhonas Enroth’s shutout bid at 2:41 of the third period as Portland made their only real glaring error on the night, turning the puck over deep their zone to Paul Crowder, who found space between Enroth’s five-hole, pulling the Wolf Pack to within three goals, at 4-1.
At 5:23, Ennis completed the hat trick when he crashed the net and stuffed the puck underneath Johnson as the Pirates restored their four goal lead with their third power play goal of the game.
The Wolf Pack attempted to get back into the game as Bobby Sanguinetti scored, making it 5-2, as he tipped a shot by Enroth, from the left faceoff circle with 10:51 left in the game.
Late in the period, the Pirates responded as Jeff Cowan scored his second of the night, tossing a back hander, in the slot by Johnson, giving Portland a commanding 6-2 lead with less than five minutes to play in the game.
Andres Ambuhl added a late period goal as the Wolf Pack pulled to within their closest margin of the night, at three goals, with 1:57 left to play.
“We needed to get a quick start on the night,” said Cowan. “We had a lot of power play chances and we took advantage of those opportunities tonight.”
It’s been a real focus to create (offense) of the rush.”
Pirates’ netminder Jhonas Enroth made 27 saves for the win, while Chad Johnson stopped 18 of 24 shots in the loss.
NOTES: The Pirates will now begin a five game road stretch that will see them travel to New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.